May 21 2009)
Joe Biden’s trip to Serbia is a part of a three-day tour of the Balkans meant to demonstrate the renewed interest of the United States in the region, AP reports. VP Biden said his trip to the Serbian capital Belgrade, where he arrived from Bosnia, is aimed at establishing “healthy” relations between the Obama administration and Serbia’s authorities.
US Vice President Joe Biden offered Belgrade a fresh start in relationship with Washington promising Serbia would not have to recognize the independence of breakaway Kosovo.
"The United States does not, I emphasize, does not expect Serbia to recognize the independence of Kosovo…It is not a precondition for our relationship or our support for Serbia becoming part of the European Union…We can agree to disagree provided that we have reasonable expectations for one another," Biden told a joint media conference after meeting with Serbia's President Boris Tadic.
Biden is the most senior US official to visit Serbia since Jimmy Carter came to then Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia as President in 1980. The US vice president voiced strong support for Serbia's hopes of joining the EU. So far, it has been held up by many pre-conditions, one of which is Serbia's failure to capture the last two remaining war crimes fugitives including Bosnian Serb genocide suspect Ratko Mladic.
VP Biden added that US Government “will use their influence, their energy and their resources to promote Serbia's Euro-Atlantic aspirations,"
President Boris Tadic reiterated his country's opposition to the independence of Kosovo, which has an ethnic Albanian majority.
"It is Serbia's legitimate right to defend its territorial integrity through the use of peaceful, diplomatic and legal means," Mr. Tadic said of Serbia’s case in the International Court of Justice. "Notwithstanding our different positions on the Kosovo question, Serbia wishes for the best possible relations with the United States.
Biden paid a solemn tribute to late reformist Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic at the site of his 2003 assassination outside the government building, after meeting with his widow Ruzica.
He also met with Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic, Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac, and other Belgrade Officials to discuss political, economic and military issues of mutual interest. On a three-day Balkans tour that took him to Bosnia on Tuesday, and to Serbia on Wednesday, VP Biden arrived on Thursday to Kosivo before heading to Lebanon on Friday. In Pristina, after a meeting with the President and Prime Minister of the temporary Kosovo government, Fatmir Sejdiu and Hasim Taci, Biden said that Kosovo's independence was an irretrievable process and that there could be no division of Kosovo